Now Available: New Online Claim Reporting Tool
Accidents are difficult enough to get through, which is why filing incident/accident-related claims should not be… Unfortunately, despite advances in technology, few insurance companies today offer online filing options…
But at Auburn University, the process of reporting your campus-related claim just got a lot simpler thanks to the implementation of a new web-based claim reporting system, introduced by Auburn’s Risk Management & Safety (RMS). This new system eliminates the need for those reporting an accident/incident to have to contact the third party adjuster PMA Companies through a 1-800 phone number to file their claims.
From anywhere in the world, the Auburn University community can access the RMS website, and, with a simple click of a button, report their incident/accident. The new web-based reporting system streamlines the claim-reporting process, making it easier for the user and allowing for a quicker, more accurate turnaround time on the issue being reported. The new system puts control of claim reporting in the hands of those filing the claim. No phone calls, no waiting for the right time to make contact with a provider, and no hassles.
RMS Risk Management Specialist Brooke Patton said the new system was in the works for some time. “To better serve Auburn University and its community, our transition to this new system will streamline the way employees, students and visitors report accidents occurring on campus,” Patton said. “This system was in the works for the better part of a year, and we are excited to be able to offer this new tool to the Auburn community. Our hope is that the claims reporting process will be much easier for those needing to utilize it.”
Those submitting a claim through the new online system should be prepared with the appropriate information that will make their claim complete, such as the date of the injury/illness and location information for where the injury/illness occurred.
The new online claims-reporting tool is available on the Risk Management & Insurance section of the RMS website. For questions or comments, please contact Risk Management Specialist Brooke Patton at x4-6231.
VCOM-Auburn Inaugural Disaster Drill Day invites emergency response preparedness collaboration between medical students, AU units and local agencies
The scene was completely unexpected.
Dozens of second-year medical students in dark blue scrubs milled around the triage tents and tarps, many with looks of uncertainty on their faces, as disaster “victims” were brought into their areas. The “victims,” played by first-year medical students, all had pre-determined injuries and were in various stages of distress. Suddenly, recalling their training, the second-year medical students sprang into action, pulling from the medical skills many of them had cultivated thus far, mostly from a computer screen or classroom.
The inaugural VCOM-Auburn Disaster Drill Day took place at the back of
Such was the atmosphere on April 28 at the inaugural Disaster Drill Day, hosted by the Edward via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Auburn (VCOM) and in collaboration with Auburn University Risk Management & Safety (RMS). Other participants included first responders with the Auburn and Opelika Fire divisions, Auburn University Public Safety and members of the Campus Community Emergency Response Team (CCERT). Through two simulated disaster incidents – including a wreck with hazardous chemical spill and a tornado strike - more than 150 second-year VCOM medical students were evaluated on their emergency response abilities in order to obtain their National Basic Life Support certification.
The participants went into the drill blind, with no clue as to what the disasters would be or of the injuries they would have to know how to treat. The same can be said for real-life mass casualty situations, where every person affected – from local first responders and medical professionals, to universities and community members – must know how to respond in order to survive or save a life.
Though the original purpose of the Disaster Day Drill was to introduce medical students to the realities of a natural or man-made disaster as part of their learning, the overall resulting significance of the event was twofold…
Full-Scale Disaster Preparedness Scenarios Offer Life-Like Learning Environment
Firefighters and first responders with Auburn & Opelika
Tornados, fires, flooding, active shooters, bomb threats, hazardous chemical spills, civil disturbance… all these, and more, are risk vulnerabilities faced by today’s public/private universities and colleges.
Campus emergencies involving natural disasters and/or man-made crisis are not new developments in the academic environment, but in the last decade, disasters have affected university and college campuses with disturbing frequency, causing not only death and injury, but also monetary losses resulting from classroom disruption and damages to buildings/infrastructure.
The 2007 Virginia Tech massacre claimed the lives of 32 people. In 2009, students were evacuated from a Central Michigan University building following a chemical spill in a lab where one person was injured. Hurricane Irene caused damage and flooding to five east coast universities in 2011, while the April 27 tornado outbreak wreaked havoc on Alabama campuses just five months earlier. A murder/suicide resulted in nine deaths at an Oregon community college in 2015, and in mid-2017, two separate fires caused mass evacuations and damage at Boston University.
Though disasters themselves are common, colleges and universities that practice massive disaster preparedness scenarios involving students, faculty, staff and outside agencies have just become more prevalent. The State University of New York College at Oneonta (SUNY) has been conducting emergency simulations annually for several years, including simulated power failures, heat waves, and suicide and terrorist attacks. According to the Daily Star, SUNY partners with local police and fire agencies and other first responders “to create drills that are as life-like as possible to best prepare students, faculty and staff.”
Though Auburn University has held disaster drills on campus before, this was VCOM-Auburn’s first experience with disaster simulation and training as part of student curriculum. VCOM is a private, non-profit Osteopathic Medical School, with a campus located in Auburn University Research Park. The college has two other campuses – one in Virginia and one in South Carolina – where disaster simulations and training have been familiar annual events since the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. Disaster simulations give medical students a closer look at how the environment inside a hospital could be impacted during a mass casualty situation and what type of skills would be expected of them.
|VCOM-Auburn students in theater paint played "victims" |
of the first disaster scenario, a car crash and chemical spill.
The first scenario of VCOM-Auburn’s Disaster Drill Day was a wreck involving university vans and a truck carrying hazardous chemicals, resulting in a hazardous chemical spill. Training alongside VCOM-Auburn students during this first scenario were more than 10 local first responders from Auburn and Opelika Fire divisions, and the East Alabama Medical Clinic EMS. Several of them suited up in HAZMAT gear to survey the scene of the accident, get the chemical spill under control and then venture through a life-like decontamination station.
Nearby, “casualties” of the wreck were delivered to the triage station where medical students began to assess their injuries before having them transported inside the school where three different simulated emergency rooms had been erected. Here, the real challenge for the students began. Assessing the wounded, they were tasked with performing various medical procedures on their patients to include delivering a baby from a “casualty” who went into labor (this was completed on a simulation dummy); properly sewing up a flesh wound; and/or inserting an IV, among others.
Second-year VCOM-Auburn medical student Clayton Lester said the hands-on experience of the drill was eye opening for him. During the first scenario, Lester had the opportunity to apply a suture to a wound and to insert a chest tube on a patient.
“I’ve done medical missions before where I learned how to set up a clinic,” said Lester, who was also a graduate of Auburn University. “But this type of learning, early on in my career, has given me a glimpse of what I might expect to see during a real disaster. It was chaotic, but beneficial training.”
VCOM-Auburn Associate Dean for Simulation and Technology Glenn Nordehn, DO, said there is no perfect drill. “However, this was a great training opportunity for the students to use their skills to improvise as well as problem solve the unexpected,” Nordehn added. “The expectation is for the students to learn how to act and how to manage in a disaster situation.”
Serving as the first joint disaster-training event involving VCOM, Auburn University and outside first responder’s organizations, much went into preparing the most useful and realistic disaster scenarios…
Where University & Local Agency Disaster Preparedness Intersect
|RMS Mike Freeman, pictured with a reporter from the |
Opelika-Auburn News, was enlisted to plan the VCOM-
Auburn disaster scenarios.
Members of RMS HAZMAT suited up to run the
Michael Freeman is a 28-year veteran of the environmental health and public safety industries, and has been employed with Auburn University’s RMS Department for more than 10 years. A former member of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army, Freeman has worked in fire, EMS and law enforcement. As a member of RMS, Freeman is a certified HAZMAT technician, responsible for HAZMAT management, spill response and transportation, among other things.
In January, VCOM contacted Freeman, who had experience conducting tabletop-type drills and had helped to train local responders on HAZMAT specifics, to ask for his help planning disaster scenarios for the Disaster Drill Day event.
“VCOM needed eight hours of instruction for the event,” Freeman said. “They also had certain components their students needed that I had to work into the scenarios. For example, they needed a HAZMAT component, traumas, a mass casualty situation, decontamination and EMS-type training.”
Around these components, Freeman also determined how best to utilize local first responders and university first responders, to maximize training for all. For example, during the chemical spill portion of the first scenario, other members of RMS trained in HAZMAT management, refreshed their skills by suiting up in personal protective equipment and helping casualties through the decontamination station, while local first responders trained in HAZMAT were responsible for utilizing their skills to contain the spill. In addition, members of Campus CERT - groups of trained individuals who have volunteered to take an active role during campus emergencies - got a refresher in search and rescue procedures as part of the tornado strike scenario later that day.
“This was the first large-scale disaster simulation to be held at VCOM-Auburn and in conjunction with local agencies,” Freeman said. “We could have done this without the local agencies, but it would not have been as realistic. If you do not practice real-life scenarios, you will not be prepared."
Deputy Chief of Auburn Fire Division Matt Jordan said first responders do not get the opportunity every day to train for HAZMAT situations. “It’s good to go through the motions like this, and we’ll go back to the station and talk about what we could have done differently,” Jordan said. “Training like this with the university is a benefit for everyone and is the type of infrastructure we want to set up. We like knowing what our resources are.”
With the Disaster Drill Day event, Jordan said local agencies get to combine their training with the knowledge from Auburn University’s subject matter experts to perfect disaster response.
While the various scenarios were playing out on the ground throughout the day, second-year VCOM-Auburn medical student Mike Brisson had quite a different view from above. A part-time paramedic with EAMC, Brisson not only brought along an ambulance to be used as a prop during the event, but also his personal Phantom III drone, which he used to take pictures of and survey the disaster drill scene from the air.
Brisson, also an Army captain and Black Hawk pilot, said his role of the day was to test how applicable drone footage could be, not only to first responders on a scene, but also to medical student training. Drones have become popular allies to first responders in the last few years, being used to more quickly and efficiently survey accident scenes to provide data.
Inside the makeshift hospital, second-year VCOM-
“I can use this drone to get a better view of what type of hazardous materials have spilled,” Brisson said. “A drone can be sent in to survey a scene, like this chemical spill, ahead of first responders. I could see if the truck in the wreck was registered and determine what types of chemicals it was carrying. This type of information all allows first responders to safely prepare for and enter a scene without endangering their lives further.”
While Brisson’s drone provided invaluable footage for first responders to study, it was also broadcast on YouTube for other VCOM-Auburn students and administrators to watch as the events unfolded.
“It’s invaluable experience to offer these types of scenarios,” Brisson said. “From this vantage point, you get familiar with the entire picture of emergency care. To be able to integrate the medical school with community responders is invaluable training.”
Auburn University RMS is currently working on an official Drone Policy for the university as a result of increased drone usage on campus.
VCOM-Auburn marked Disaster Drill Day 2017 as a success and an important learning opportunity, and hopes to make it an annual event the school hosts going forward, possibly expanding involvement to the greater university community in years to come. To see footage of the April 28 event, click here.
Media Contact: Kati Burns, RMS Communications & Marketing | 334-844-2502 | email@example.com
The RMI Intern Experience: UGA student intern finds home among Auburn family
Peachtree City, Georgia native Eric Sutliff climbed to the top of Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn University. He got “a taste for Auburn” through popular eateries like The Hound, Amsterdam and Coffee Cat, and immersed himself in culture during local music & arts festivals. He volunteered at a food pantry, played guitar in a worship band and found family in a place miles from home.
|Peachtree City, Georgia summer intern Eric Sutliff spent eight weeks with |
Auburn University Risk Management & Insurance, learning how risk
touches all facets of higher education.
While Sutliff enjoyed the full Auburn experience, he also spent his eight-weeks on campus immersed in the risk management & insurance realm of study as the first intern for Auburn University’s Risk Management & Safety Department (RMS). A hard sought after intern by other viable internship-seeking entities, Sutliff said he chose to accept the internship with Auburn University because he loved the campus and was impressed with how genuine RMS staff were during his interviews.
“I’ve met tons of great people and made some friends for life in Auburn,” said Sutliff, a junior in the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. “Everybody, from the community to the RMS staff, have been great, super friendly and willing to help anyone.”
Sutliff’s summer internship was a result of a $5,000 grant awarded to RMS through the Spencer Educational Foundation, the premier organization awarding scholarships and grants in risk management and insurance, and facilitating internship opportunities. The grant stipulated an eight-week internship at 320 hours. Sutliff works Monday through Friday, eight hours per day, just as a full-time employee might. Besides weekly projects with RMS, Sutliff is also tasked with writing a 10-20 page essay on his internship experience for his Risk Management & Insurance Program with the Terry College of Business.
Sutliff always thought he would go into the sciences or engineering field. He had never considered a career in risk management and insurance until a high school graduation party, where the father of one of his friends told him about the field. The father worked as a risk manager for Chick-fil-a headquarters and invited Sutliff to shadow him on the job one day.
“I discovered that risk management and insurance is really just a blending of all the subjects I already loved – science and statistics,” Sutliff said.
Concluding his studies at the University of Georgia, Sutliff will have earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration, and will have certifications in legal studies and sustainability.
His summer internship with Auburn University RMS was his first taste of risk management and insurance practices in higher education. “I never considered how many different risk areas there are at a large university,” Sutliff said. “I’ve enjoyed getting exposed to these things and learning how they affect the university in a greater sense.
During his internship, Sutliff learned about the many areas that university risk management touches – from athletics and research labs, to museums and dorm rooms. He attended fire extinguisher training classes with members of RMS Fire Safety, performed different environmental and lab safety audits, met with university vendors and learned how to input data into the university’s risk management information system, Origami.
|Sutliff got the opportunity to work with University Risk Management and |
Safety on a number of projects, including one that involved a special
fire-safety training day with the local fire division.
One of his favorite experiences during the internship was a special fire-safety training opportunity between the Auburn Fire Division and RMS at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The university contractor Brendle Sprinkler Company was testing the stadium’s dry sprinkler system for the first time in five years, giving the fire department a unique opportunity to conduct an on-scene fire-fighting scenario at the stadium using their newly purchased high-rise equipment in preparation of the university’s upcoming football season.
“It was fun seeing how the university and the fire department might prepare for a catastrophic event, like a fire during a game, and it was also interesting to learn how RMS partners with the local community and other university units to ensure a safe environment for all,” Sutliff said.
At the University of Georgia, Sutliff is involved with Special Olympics UGA and is a Terry College of Business Ambassador. He is the chair of professional development for his fraternity GAMMA IOTA SIGMA (the international business fraternity for students of insurance, risk management and the actuarial sciences) and is involved with the university ministry, the Wesley Foundation. Sutliff’s time interning with Auburn University RMI, he said, has been helpful in teaching him how to deal with other people on a professional, as well as, relational level in an office setting.
Risk Management Specialist Patrick White, who was the main mentor for Sutliff in RMS, said as the first intern for RMS, Sutliff has set the bar high for future interns.
"Eric's refreshing work-ethic and thoughtful, deliberative attitude have contributed greatly to the advancement of our mission here in Risk Management," White said. "He has been exposed to a vast array of our operations here on campus, and he offers thoughtful questions and possible solutions to better serve each area. Our hope is that Eric can use the knowledge gained in this experience to not only further his career, but also make a meaningful difference in the world of Risk Management."
Sutliff has developed a special interest in the sustainability side of risk management. He will be pursuing a certificate of sustainability. "I've always been interested in the holistic well-being of our planet,” he said. “I think sustainability addresses social justice, economic growth, and environmental stewardship in an attainably realistic manner. My experience with the environmental safety team with Auburn University RMS has shown me applicable ways to address these goals in the risk management industry.”
“I’m excited to get into the insurance industry and to combine some of the things I have learned with other areas I’m passionate about. The Auburn family is a real thing; people are truly interested in who you are and in helping you. I am very thankful for this, and for how open and inclusive the RMS staff have been. It has been a great hands-on learning experience.”
Special Firefighter Training Day at Jordan-Hare: Auburn Fire commends RMS for help making game days safer for fans
Despite recent days of dark clouds and heavy rainfall, firefighters with Auburn Fire Division were thankfully met with sunny blue skies for their training at Jordan-Hare Stadium on June 8. It had been a busy night and morning for Auburn firefighters, with more emergency calls than usual, but close to 10 firefighters were on hand for the special fire safety training the division had desired to do for more than a year.
The fire department partnered with Auburn University Risk Management & Safety (RMS) to receive important training on the stadium’s wet and dry fire protection systems, while university contractor Brendle Sprinkler Company and RMS tested the sprinklers at the same time. This testing of the stadium’s dry water fire protection systems happens every five years, a requirement of the National Fire Protection Association.
“This was a once-in-every-five-years opportunity for the fire department to get some hands-on experience on-site, at an outdoor location where they would actually be able to use high-pressure water hoses while training,” said Chris Carmello, RMS Safety & Health Programs manager. “There are important differences between a “wet sprinkler system” and a “dry sprinkler system” that made this training at the stadium more attractive to the fire department.”
Wet sprinkler systems always have water in the pipes, but dry sprinkler systems, such as some of the standpipe systems at the stadium, do not, which means there will be a bit of a lag in the time it takes the water to spread throughout the pipes when charged. There are five fire hydrants around the stadium and two standpipe systems inside the stadium.
The training began on the ground level of the stadium with firefighters and staff with Brendle testing the pressure of the water and releasing any old water standing in the pipes. Firefighters then carried hoses up five flights of stairs to the very top of the stadium where they hooked up to the stadium’s standpipe system and waited for the hose to fill with water.
“It’s invaluable that we have this kind of training where some 80,000 fans could be gathered,” said Jeff Nolin, Auburn Fire Division battalion chief. “We need this kind of muscle memory and the experience of stretching the hoses in a building that we’re actually going to be working in.”
The training lasted from 8 a.m. until about noon. The testing allowed both firefighters, RMS and Brendle to find any leaks, breakages or other defects throughout the system.
“These scenarios help us to think about logistics ahead of time, like where we need to have personnel during game days and any situations they might run into trying to get to the fire,” said Deputy Fire Chief Matt Jordan. “If there is a fire, we’re going to have to evacuate people, move people around also.”
The stadium training was the first opportunity the Auburn Fire Division has had to use the “high-rise packs” purchased specifically for the stadium almost two years ago. The division typically has firefighters staged at the stadium during game days, with additional personnel to call-in if need be.
“This time of year, we’re thinking about football season, putting our people in place and just preparing for any new developments – like new constructions that may have gone up that could affect our response times or typical staging areas,” Jordan said.
“It’s our job to prepare for “worst case scenarios.” The university has done a great job making this a safe environment for the university community and the fans. RMS does a great job collaborating with us, inspecting fire extinguishers ahead of time, and managing contractors and vendors. We are always very impressed with their help.”
Media Contact: Kati Burns, RMS Communications & Marketing | 334-844-2502 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Media Coverage: Inaugural VCOM Disaster Drill Day
On Friday, April 28, Auburn University’s Risk Management & Safety (RMS), several other campus units and local first-responder agencies from the community, took part in the university’s first ever Disaster Drill Day, hosted by the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Auburn, or VCOM.
“Disaster Drill Day” was an emergency response training and disaster simulation event specifically for second-year VCOM medical students, who were evaluated that day by VCOM faculty on their ability to respond and triage casualties. More than 150 second-year students participated as part of evaluation, while another 100 students played the roles of “casualties” or other necessary characters.
To see photos of the event, visit @AuburnRMS on Twitter or search for the hashtag #VCOMDisasterDrill. Several members of the media covered the event extensively including the Opelika-Auburn News and WSFA 12 News of Montgomery. See the full stories below.
Inaugural Disaster Day prepares responders, students for worst, Opelika-Auburn News
Managing Cybersecurity in Higher Education
From United Educators, March 30, 2017 - Ever-evolving cybersecurity attacks constantly threaten higher education institutions. Last year, the education sector moved from third to second—tied with business—in the number of breaches by industry, with health care in the No. 1 spot, according to Symantec’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report. The EDUCASE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) found 562 reported data breaches at 324 higher education institutions between 2005 and 2014. Those breaches represent about 15.5 million records.
Breaches and their aftermath are costly... Higher education institutions possess massive amounts of data, including personal information about students, faculty, staff, and donors, making them tempting targets for hackers and other digital criminals...
Discussed in this article:
- Security measures higher education institutions are taking
- Definition of the "Human Factor" some institutions are using to train their communities
- Outreach beyond just campus
- Tips for preventing breaches
Continue reading the full story on Cybersecurity in Higher Education.
Celebrating "Insurance Careers Month" - Meet Our RMS Staff
Valentine’s and groundhogs, heart health and Superbowl Sundays – these are the things we most commonly associate with the month of February each year. However, since 2016, the insurance industry has been recognizing February for a special time all its own – Insurance Careers Month.
According to insuremypath.org, Insurance Careers Month is a cross-industry, multi-phased initiative designed to raise awareness of the dynamic career opportunities in the risk management and insurance profession, and to recruit the next generation of industry leaders. Unfortunately, many students and young professionals have no idea these careers even exist or, at best, they have a genuine misunderstanding of the risk management and insurance fields.
To help bring awareness to this lucrative field, throughout February, Auburn University Risk Management & Safety will highlight several of our dedicated Risk Management & Insurance (RMI) staff members, who will share their experiences and perspectives on a field that has shaped their lives, from the higher education RMI standpoint.
Meet Patrick White, Risk Management Specialist
White Finds Variety & Opportunities in Insurance Career
As an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia in the early 2000s, Patrick White was drawn to the Risk Management & Insurance field because of the vast array of opportunities available. From production to underwriting, to claims and loss control, among others, the field offered a wide variety of career options.
White has worked as a commercial account executive handling global accounts for an insurance group, and an account representative for State Farm, among others. He came to work in higher education in 2015 as an Auburn University Risk Management Specialist, a setting he finds particularly appealing.
“The risks inherent to higher education are very unique when compared to the commercial sector,” said White, who is currently pursuing a master’s in higher education administration. “I have enjoyed applying what I have learned over my years in the industry while at the same time learning how the higher education model differs from the commercial accounts I worked with in the past.”
Analytical by nature, White enjoys policy review, and providing counsel and advice on how to address risks facing Auburn University. His day-to-day job responsibilities consist of managing the university’s automobile self-insurance program; overseeing the administration of the University Fleet Policy; handling claims; collecting information from departments to provide to the university’s insurance companies; and reviewing contracts, among others.
“Insurance has opened many doors for me in my career,” White said. “It has also opened my eyes to many ways that risk management and insurance can affect the quality of life for so many individuals.”
Here’s what else he had to say about his experiences in the risk management and insurance industry thus far.
What would you say is the most difficult part of your job?
WHITE: The most difficult part of my job is that I have to be a professional at reacting to situations as they come my way. As a planner, I find it hard sometimes to switch gears from the comprehensive projects that I may be working on to deal with the pressing issues that can come through our office on any given day, such as claims or general questions regarding the risk implications of various activities across campus.
Do people misunderstand your industry? If so, in what ways and why do you think there is misunderstanding?
WHITE: Many people on the outside see us as the “no” people – trying to find ways to keep fun things from happening. However, we like to have fun, too. We just want people to be safe, and we want to make sure the university’s interests are protected, which benefits us all. Getting people to think about all the risks associated with any given activity can be challenging at times.
What is the biggest obstacle facing the insurance industry right now? How will you work to overcome it in your position?
WHITE: It has been widely documented that a mass exodus of insurance talent is imminent due to the aging work force. Coupled with the struggle to recruit new talent to the field, this will present somewhat of a crisis in the next decade. I work hard to promote our industry and encourage new talent to consider risk management and insurance as a career. Our department is hiring an undergraduate intern this summer for that very reason, and I play an integral role in the planning and administration of this exciting opportunity. Having completed an underwriting internship while an undergraduate, I appreciate the invaluable experience an internship can afford for someone looking to choose a career path.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of seeking a career in your industry?
WHITE: My advice would be to work in a customer-facing position in the early stages of your career. I always said I did not want to go into sales, but then I ended up working in insurance production for almost eight years before coming to Auburn. Having to put myself out there and learn how to market a product gave me a better understanding of how to market myself. Also, start early with securing industry credentials like CPCU or ARM. It only gets harder to complete those designations as you get older and take on more responsibility.
Meet Melissa Agresta, Auburn University Risk Manager
Former Art Student Finds Creativity in RMI
Auburn’s University Risk Manager Melissa Agresta began her career in risk management in a way that many people might not consider – working with art museums. The Virginia native and mom of three earned a bachelor of arts in studio art and art history from James Madison University; a master’s in risk management & insurance from Florida State University; and she is currently pursuing a doctorate of philosophy in adult education from Auburn University.
Agresta “happened upon” the insurance industry when she took a position right after undergraduate school working as a technical assistant and, later, vice president for specialty areas for private brokerage firm Willis Towers Watson in Arlington, Virginia. Her work focused on insurance and risk evaluation/development for some of the nation’s most prestigious art museums, galleries, dealers, collectors and universities. Many of her clients were risk managers for higher education institutions and, through their influence, she grew fond of the idea of working in risk management for a university.
Agresta began work at Auburn University in 2012 as a risk management specialist and moved into the role of university risk manager in 2015. She oversees four other risk management specialists and works diligently to ensure her department’s responsibilities align with the university’s mission. Not only does her team uncover new risks but they also advise the university on how to address them.
In her spare time, Agresta still enjoys art and photography, but she has found the field of risk management and insurance does offer opportunities for those with creative minds. “It’s a field that requires the generation of new ideas and problem solving, something those with an artistic side thrive on,” Agresta said. “RMI is continually changing and offers many opportunities to make a difference. You could be risk manager for a diversity of organizations, ranging from anything such as a large manufacturing company or a city, to a national park or even an NFL team.”
Here is what else Agresta had to say about her more than 10-year journey into the risk management and insurance industry, and advice she has for young minds considering pursuing a career in RMI.
What are some of the differences in working in RMI somewhere else as opposed to higher education?
AGRESTA: After spending nine years working in the corporate world, I would say the biggest difference is the culture. In the corporate world, and especially a company with stockholders, there is always a preoccupation with profits and financial growth. It is competitive and fast-paced. Sweeping changes are sometimes implemented unexpectedly. In higher education, the focus is more on supporting a university’s mission, which is not making money, but serving the community and providing world-class education and research. Change is more gradual and, in general, the environment is supportive of employee professional development and less concerned with internal competition. That is not to say one is better than the other though, as they each offer unique perspectives. However, where one will be most satisfied will depend on your personal characteristics and goals.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
AGRESTA: The most difficult part of the job is effectively communicating what RMI does and why it is important, so that others understand we are trying to help. In order to be a good risk manager, you have to build credibility and relationships with a wide variety of people. If you are not successful at this, then you will not be able to effect positive change and promote a healthy risk culture in your organization.
Why do you think people misunderstand what RMI is and what it does?
AGRESTA: Society tends to have a negative view of the insurance industry as a whole. Words like “boring,” “unfair,” or “greedy” come to mind. What people misunderstand is that insurance is the financial backing allowing businesses to prosper without the worry of financial ruin. It is a basic building block of a sound economy.
How has your career in risk management and insurance changed/defined your life?
AGRESTA: My insurance career has spanned different organizations, as well as, having given me the opportunity to be on both the sales side and the client side. Through my work, I have had the opportunity to visit Lloyds of London where I learned the history of the industry and how it ties into the greater economy. By being in an academic environment, I have been inspired to become a lifelong learner. I have had the pleasure of working with people from all different types of backgrounds, such as wealthy art collectors, academics and fellow administrative staff here at Auburn. I have gotten to witness first-hand the problems facing our society and the solutions people are always creating. I feel that it has helped me become a well-rounded individual, one who has learned how to communicate and relate to many different people.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of seeking a career in your industry?
AGRESTA: I think the risk and insurance industry is an exciting field that offers many opportunities for success. For anyone wanting to enter the industry, I recommend a few things. First, tailor your education. Many institutions offer degrees with a focus on risk management & insurance. Additionally, obtaining insurance industry designations such as the CPCU, ARM or CRM, which will add to your credibility and knowledge, and really give you an advantage over other candidates. Second, make industry connections and develop relationships. Find a good mentor. Third, try to get relevant experience as soon as possible. Internships and/or apprenticeships are a great opportunity. Consider taking jobs that are entry level and not necessarily your dream job, but a stepping-stone. Last, do not be afraid to keep your opportunities open geographically, if possible, otherwise you will be severely limiting your potential.
"Cookies & Contracts" course prepares AU employees to act as university facilitators
Close to 30 Auburn University employees attended the “Principles of University Contracting & Risk Transfer” workshop on Jan. 26.
The 3-hour course offered attendees a basic understanding of contract law and strategies for transferring risk away from the university. Auburn Contract Officer Courtney Raville and University Risk Manager Melissa Agresta led the workshop, attentively fielding questions from attendees throughout the presentation. Though a tough topic, Raville and Agresta simplified the process by dividing attendees into teams for Q & A style games that helped them digest the material easier.
During the break, attendees enjoyed homemade chocolate chip cookies and milk, provided by the workshop leaders.
A university contract is a contract between Auburn and a third party, not agreements between Auburn units. By completion of the course, attendees had learned about:
- Contract elements, such as mutual assent, offer and acceptance, capacity/authority, consideration and legality
- Special university issues, such as sovereign immunity, competitive bid law and public works law
- Primary methods of risk transfer, among other things
To attend a class like this or others, login to AU Access and visit “Fast-Train.”
National Fire Protection Association offers fire safety tips on crowded buildings
Take necessary precautions to protect yourself in crowded buildings this holiday season and always be aware of your surroundings were just two of several tips offered by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on Tuesday, Dec. 13. The NFPA delivered the tips following the recent fire catastrophes in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Oakland, California and Cambridge, Massachusetts, urging people to not be complacent.
In early December, a small forest fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, grew into an uncontrollable inferno as a result of sudden high winds and dry weather, burning thousands of homes and businesses, and killing 14 people. In Oakland, California, a deadly fire engulfed a warehouse during an electronic dance concert, killing at least nine people. And in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a massive, fast-moving 10-alarm fire – described as the largest seen in Cambridge in more than 35 years – destroyed 11 buildings and several cars before it was contained.
According to NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley in a statement to Occupational Health & Safety Online, these reminders are particularly important during the holiday season, when public areas are often overcrowded. “Most people don’t consider fire a significant risk, and complacency is one of the greatest dangers when it comes to fire safety,” Pauley said. “No one ever thinks it will happen to them. We hope these tragic incidents remind people that fires can and do happen, and that they need to be prepared in the event of one.”
NFPA’s fire safety tips for entering and spending time in crowded buildings include some of the following reminders:
- Be aware of surroundings. Are exits visible and easily accessible? Know your escape route ahead of time. If exits are blocked, file a complaint with the local fire marshal.
- Have a communication plan in place. In the event of an emergency, know who you will contact, and designate a “family meeting spot” outside of the building.
- React immediately. If an alarm sounds or there is smoke, exit the building. Do not return to the building for any reason; let trained firefighters conduct their operations.
RMS participates in SGA Town Hall, talks threat reporting & new student rental insurance
|Representatives from various areas of campus participated in the Student Government Association's Town Hall Meeting on Nov. 15, fielding questions of concern from a crowd of more than 40 students. Photo Credit: Kelsey Prather.|
Dining options, residence hall issues and campus safety were topics of concern during the Tuesday, Nov. 15, panel-style Auburn University Student Government Association (SGA) Town Hall Meeting held in the Student Center. This was the first panel discussion held by the SGA in a couple of years, and more than 40 students were in attendance.
Representatives from Auburn’s Risk Management and Safety (RMS), Tiger Dining, Parking Services, Housing and Residence Life, and Public Safety participated in the discussion, listening attentively to student concerns and giving updates on various campus projects of interest. SGA Advisor Brad Smith said the purpose of the Town Hall was to give the student body a chance to voice their opinions to representatives of areas where they traditionally have concerns. A second Town Hall Meeting is planned for spring 2017 and will feature representatives from other areas of the campus.
SGA President Jesse Westerhouse led the panel discussion, reading from a list of previously submitted student questions the SGA had gathered from Auburn Answers. RMS Executive Director Christine Eick and Risk Management Specialist Holly Leverette represented RMS during the discussion.
Risk Management and Safety-related concerns arising from the discussion included the following:
- On the topic of how the university handles campus hate crimes or bias, Associate Director of Public Safety Susan McCallister said the university does not tolerate hate crimes and that any such issues should be reported immediately to Public Safety.
RMS Executive Director Eick also added that the university has a Threat Assessment Team in place to investigate such incidences. The goals of the Threat Assessment Team are to advise on incidents involving members of the university community who pose, or may reasonably pose, a threat to the safety and well-being of themselves or others. Any member of the university community who becomes aware of such a situation can report the matter to the team.
To make a report to the Threat Assessment Team, call 334-844-5010 or email email@example.com.
- On the topic of key issues faced by RMS or any updates, Eick mentioned the relatively new Student and Employee Renter/Property Insurance Program provided to Auburn students, faculty and staff through the Arthur J. Gallagher & Company. The program, designed specifically for college-related audiences, offers deductibles as low as $25, much less than a Homeowner’s deductible. The benefits of the policy includes such things as replacement cost valuation; flood and earthquake coverage; and limited identity theft expense coverage.
“There are different levels of the policy that you can purchase, and it is very affordable,” Eick said. “We are always looking for opportunities to assist students in any way that we can.”
Visit Student and Employee Renter/Property Insurance to learn more about why the program might be right for you or to purchase coverage.
In other updates, Eick said RMS is also working on safety initiatives to reduce the amount of potentially hazardous chemicals used in labs on campus.
Other safety-related topics of interest during the panel discussion:
- McCallister of Public Safety said that date-rape drug concerns are a topic of heavy interest from both students and parents alike. She said victims of date-rape drugs often fail to get the incident reported before the drugs have left their system. Educating students on the topic so they have a better awareness will be a priority going forward.
- In regards to “community policing,” McCallister said that Public Safety is going through some changes, which will include the addition of more police officers from Auburn Police Department on campus. The officers will not be on a rotating schedule as before, however, but will be a staff dedicated specifically to the university. This will allow officers to get more familiar with the university community and to do more outreach.
SGA Town Hall Meeting, Nov. 15 - Risk Management & Safety to participate
Representatives from Risk Management and Safety, Dining, Residence Life and Parking Services will participate in the SGA Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. in the Auburn University Student Center. Students will have the opportunity to learn more about these respective areas, and to voice any questions or concerns they might have.
For more information about the Town Hall Meeting, visit Auburn SGA on Facebook.
Auburn University Student Center
255 Heisman Drive
Auburn, AL 36849
Alert from Risk Management and Safety regarding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones
Due to reports of "overheating" and other safety risks involving the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone, Auburn University Risk Management & Safety is advising all individuals in possession of this device to follow the manufacturer's instructions as stated in the following link: http://www.samsung.com/us/note7recall/
Samsung is asking all carrier and retail partners here and around the globe to stop sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note7. Since the affected devices can overheat and pose a safety risk, Samsung is asking consumers with an original Galaxy Note7 or a replacement Galaxy Note7 to power it down and contact the carrier or retail outlet where the Galaxy Note7 was purchased. If you bought your Galaxy Note7 from Samsung.com or have questions, you should contact Samsung at 1-844-365-6197 for further assistance.
Public Safety Advisory: Pokémon Go
Auburn University Campus Community,
As many of you are aware, the game Pokémon Go has become very popular over the past week. The game gets people outside, walking, and interacting with each other in a fun environment. However, it also poses some risks.
At about 3:00 a.m. today, Auburn Police responded to a report of a robbery near the Jule Collins Smith Museum. The robbery victim notified police immediately and the four robbery suspects were quickly apprehended. The victim did sustain minor injuries but was treated at East Alabama Medical Center and released. The preliminary police investigation indicates that the robbery suspects were using the Pokémon Go game to target the suspect.
For your safety, if you are playing Pokémon Go, please remember the following:
• Pokéstops and Pokégyms are focal points that attract more users. Criminals may take advantage of this. Make sure to look up, look around, and be aware of who and what is around you. It's best to visit Pokéstops and Pokégyms during the day, with a friend or in a group.
• Avoid areas that are isolated, especially if you are alone.
• Some Pokémon will randomly appear in dangerous locations, such as roads, bodies of water, or inside construction sites. Realize when one is out of reach and don't risk your safety to retrieve it!
• Some Pokémon appear on private property. Do not trespass to catch Pokémon.
• When looking for Pokémon, you may become overly focused on your phone screen and become oblivious to your surroundings. This goes back to being aware of your surroundings. Look out for obstacles, tripping hazards, and other dangerous situations.
• Avoid parking lots, roadways and busy intersections. Try to stay on sidewalks and in designated crosswalks as much as possible. It is your responsibility to make yourself visible to vehicles, bicyclists, and other pedestrians. Always follow traffic safety rules.
• You should never catch Pokémon (or do other screen-intensive things on your phone) while operating a motor vehicle, bicycle, or skateboard. It creates a hazard for you, other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
• If using earbuds, leave one ear open so you can hear what is happening around you.
• Keep your information secure! Make sure to check your Pokémon Go security settings so you know what kind of information the app collects.
Have fun, but remember to be safe!
Auburn University Public Safety & Security
The Risks of Crowdfunding
Temporary Ban On Hoverboards use in all university facilities
Due to safety concerns associated with hoverboards that have been raised by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the potential impact to the safety of our community, effective January 6, 2016 Auburn University is instituting a temporary ban on these devices.
Until further notice the use of self-balancing devices inside of university facilities is banned and charging of these devices is prohibited in all university facilities (owned or leased). This action is being taken as part of the university's efforts to maintain a safe campus through a comprehensive fire prevention program. Restrictions will remain in place until safety concerns are resolved.
Several agencies are investigating fires and injuries related to these devices. This link provides information from the CPSC:http://www.cpsc.gov/en/About-CPSC/Chairman/Kaye-Biography/Chairman-Kayes-Statements/Statements/Statement-from-the-US-CPSC-Chairman-Elliot-F-Kaye-on-the-safety-of-hoverboards/.
Individuals who are returning to campus via air travel are encouraged to review their airline’s policy regarding hoverboards as most/all major airlines do not allow the devices on their planes. Taking a few minutes to check with your airline prior to travel might save time and inconvenience while traveling to Auburn.
As you return to campus after the holidays, remember that campus safety is a community responsibility. Please be aware of potential hazards and be mindful of others by not introducing potential hazards to the community. Safety tips and precautions from the NFPA can be found on our website here: Hoverboard Tip Sheet.
Thank you for your cooperation,
Risk Management & Safety
316 Leach Science Center